Television's ongoing fascination with the Mafia continues, with NBC planning a four-hour miniseries for May about mob hit man Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, starring NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro.
In addition to the NBC project, which will be based on court records and other material in the public domain, 20th Century Fox controls feature film adaptation rights to Underboss, Peter Maas' best-selling book about Gravano, who admitted to killing 19 people.
NBC should have a clear field, however, since that movie has been delayed due to issues raised by New York officials and victims' families. Several people with relatives who were killed by Gravano are seeking his earnings from the book, under a law that gives crime victims the right to sue for proceeds criminals receive from accounts of their misdeeds.
Gravano was instrumental in convicting crime boss John Gotti by testifying to numerous murders he committed on Gotti's orders.
Currently living undercover, Gravano cooperated with Maas and was interviewed on ABC's PrimeTime Live last April, around the time the book was published.
Interest in Gravano underscores the proven ratings and box-office appeal of such material. Home Box Office's Gotti _ telling the story from a different perspective _ was one of the pay channel's highest-rated movies ever, also winning this year's Emmy Award for star Armand Assante.
Playing Gravano will require Turturro, a two-time Emmy nominee for his role as NYPD Blue's Detective James Martinez, to miss several episodes of the ABC police drama, which the show's producers have agreed to let him do.
The NBC miniseries will be produced by actor Robert De Niro's production company, Tribeca Films.